07 Dec 2005
As 2005 draws to a close, OLE looks back at the scientific breakthroughs, emerging applications and business deals that have hit the headlines. Enjoy reading and reminiscing!
OLE January: Guiding THz waves
Finding a waveguide that works in the terahertz region has been problematic but in January researchers in the US found that a simple bare metal wire guides terahertz pulses with virtually no dispersion and low attenuation.
Jan: Precise timing
Scientists at NPL, UK, make the most accurate optical frequency measurement to date. The frequency was measured to an accuracy of 3.4 parts in 1015 - a factor of three better than the previous best. The result is an important step towards optical clocks that rival today's best timekeeper, the caesium atomic clock.
Feb: Bookham ramps up diode power
Bookham unveils an infrared laser diode bar emitting the highest commercially available power, 120 W, over the range of 900-1000 nm.
Feb: Silicon comes of age
Intel reports the first all-silicon laser chip. Exploiting the Raman effect, the device emitted at 1669.5 nm but only operated for around 100 ns before two-photon absorption stopped the lasing action. In March, Intel unveils a continuous-wave Raman laser that overcomes February's two-photon absorption problems.
Feb: External VCSELs go visible
A team from the UK and Finland fabricates what they believe to be the first high-power extended-cavity VCSEL directly emitting visible wavelengths. The CW source emitted 390 mW at 674 nm.
April: Electricity lights up Raman laser
A US team lead by Federico Capasso release details of the first electrically driven Raman laser. The design exploits Raman scattering between quantum wells within the active region of a quantum cascade laser (QCL). When electrically pumped, the QCL starts to lase and its emission at 6.7 mm is Raman-shifted to 9 μm.
April: Light takes staring role
Scientists use a photonic crystal waveguide to slow light and a phase-sensitive, near-field scanning optical microscope (PS-NSOM) to capture the process. Images from the PS-NSOM show that 120 fs pulses travelling in the waveguide were slowed to 1/1000th of the speed of light in vacuum.
May: QCLs heat up
Researchers in Germany fabricate what they say are the first 4.5 μm QCLs working at temperatures of up to 400 K.
June: Laser fridge has cold turn
Using a laser to cool something down is not an intuitive concept. But at Los Alamos National Laboratory, they managed to cool a small bar of ytterbium-doped fluoride glass to 208 K using nothing but laser light.
July/Aug: Q-dots create single photons
The development of a quantum-dot based device emitting single photons at 1.3 μm looks set to simplify experiments in quantum communication and computing. The breakthrough was made by Toshiba Research Europe and the University of Cambridge, both of the UK.
Sept: Parallel trapping
Combining an LED and a digital micromirror display allowed scientists in the US to produce an optoelectronic tweezer capable of manipulating up to 15000 particles in parallel.
Oct: Jenoptik pushes up the power
Jenoptik Laserdiode, Germany, fabricates a laser diode bar that emits a record-breaking 454 W of continuous-wave infrared (940 nm) light.
Oct: Fibre slows laser pulses
In what has been a year of breakthroughs in the field of slowing down light, scientists at EPFL in Switzerland devise a clever way to control the speed at which pulses travel along an optical fibre. The method relies on stimulated Brillouin scattering.
Nov: Nobel prize goes to optics pioneers
The 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to Roy Glauber of Harvard University, US, John Hall of the University of Colorado, US, and Theodor Hänsch of the Ludwig Maximillians University in Germany.
Nov: Slow light work picks up pace
In a final flurry for the year, three papers detailing the phenomena of slowing down light hit the headlines. A Danish team detailed how a quantum-dot semiconductor amplifier and an electro-absorption modulator can both slow light down. Meanwhile in the US, a team discovers that a VCSEL configured as an amplifier can also perform the task.
OLE January: Eye surgery shake-up
Advanced Medical Optics acquires VISX, a leading provider of laser eye surgery equipment, for $1.3 bn (€1 bn).
Feb: Blue LED pay-out Shuji Nakamura, the Japanese researcher locked in a legal battle with Nichia over the patents relating to the invention of blue-emitting GaN LEDs and lasers, has his compensation pay-out slashed from YEN 20 bn (€147 m) to YEN 840 m.
March: OLED acquisition
Merck, the liquid crystal specialist, spends €50 m purchasing Covion Organic Semiconductors, the Frankfurt-based supplier of OLED materials, owned by Avecia, UK.
April: ABL lease of life
Northrop Grumman receives a $142 m contract from the US Missile Defense Agency to continue development of the Airborne Laser - a Boeing 747 equipped with a megawatt chemical laser for shooting down ballistic missiles.
May: JDSU goes shopping
JDSU acquires Lightwave Electronics, the Californian solid-state laser developer, for $65 m. In the same issue, OLE reports that Omnivision Technologies, a supplier of CMOS camera chips, has snapped up CDM Optics, a developer of wavefront coding technology, for $30 m.
July/Aug: Coherent gets hungry
Coherent purchases TuiLaser, the German supplier of excimer lasers, and its subsidiary Bavarian Photonics for €22.5 m. The deal is announced on the first day of the LASER 2005. World of Photonics show in Munich.
Sept: Philips grabs LED maker
The Dutch electronics group, Philips, takes control of Lumileds, the Californian developer of high-brightness LEDs, by buying Agilent's 47% share in the venture for €765 m.
Oct: SPI goes public
Southampton Photonics (SPI), the UK developer of fibre lasers, floats on the AIM market, a division of the London Stock Exchange.
Nov: Thales drops optics
The French defence contractor sells its high-tech optics (HTO) business to the private investment firm Candover for €220 m in cash. The French and Japanese member companies of the group are excluded from the sale.
OLE February: Holo-drive gears up
InPhase Technologies builds a prototype 80 Gbyte holographic data storage drive based on a blue laser. Commercial versions of the drive, with storage capacities ranging from 200 to 1600 Gbyte, are set to enter the market in 2006.
Mar: Silica chip boosts SERS
Mesophotonics, UK, unveils a patterned substrate, which it says enhances the signal produced by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy by a factor of a million. Chemists from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, US, are currently using the glass-mounted chip to analyse blood samples and detect the initial stages of osteoarthritis.
April & Sept: E-paper
Dutch electronics firm Philips says that its flexible display technology is now ready for use in PDAs, mobile phones and other commercial devices. Hot on its heels, Japanese hi-tech giant Fujitsu has come up with a colour electronic paper device for displaying advertisements in trains and buses.
June: Quantum cryptography
Toshiba Research Europe transmits quantum-encrypted voice and video data over standard optical fibre. According to the firm, its "quantum key server" is both compatible with real Internet protocol traffic and robust enough for deployment on commercial fibre networks.
Nov: Polymer solar cells
A team from the University of California at Los Angeles, US, increases the efficiency of polymer-based solar cells to a record 4.4% by controlling the growth rate of the device's polymer layer.